It’s halfway through 2009, and for once I’m going to be completely shameless: here are links to the best dozen things I’ve written so far this year. Almost all of them are quite long: if you don’t like long pieces, click no further!

Even An Android Can Cry (Pitchfork column)

“When the red light comes on I transform,” sing R&B girl group Danity Kane on their “Bad Girl” single. You’re meant to think of strippers, but what I hear is devices switching between standby and active mode. The group sound like machines, anyhow: The key appeal of last year’s Welcome To The Dollhouse LP is the harmonies, as gorgeous as any this side of Fleet Foxes. But while the Foxes sound wholly organic, like they’ve just spent a hard day watching people toil in the fields, Danity Kane’s silvery overtones and patterns sound computer-sculpted, gorgeously unnatural.

After Pop (Freaky Trigger)

There’ll be a reassessment, naturally – ballads like “Butterflies” and “Stranger In Moscow” are too strong for there not to be. In comparison to “Off The Wall” or “PYT” of course, they sound petrified, seized up. In fact a lot of the 90s material sounds like multiple drafts of one single, crushed and frightened song by a man desperate to get the pain out: “Here abandoned in my fame / Armageddon of the brain.”

Around The World In 84 Tweets (Pitchfork column)

Twitter allows real-time aggregation of information from people who don’t even know they’re in a crowd– all in handy 140-character chunks.

Of course sometimes they do know they’re in a crowd– hashtags like #sxsw or #tcot or #amazonfail are self-conscious crowd-creation.

Here’s where crowdsourcing gets less utopian. Crowdsourced distribution is piracy. Crowdsourced justice is… well, you can work that out.

Factory Communications: 1978-1992 (Pitchfork review)

Almost every label makes duff signings, but Factory’s were somehow excusable because of the mystique surrounding the organization– founder Tony Wilson’s charm, patter, and heroic whim giving the impression that allowing Crispy Ambulance to make awful records was part of the grand plan as surely as the menstrual egg-timer (FAC 8) was.

Entitlement and Compromise (Blue Lines Revisited)

“I should have everything I want the way I want it” is entitlement: it’s a kind of entitlement that newspapers (and pop music!) have done their bit to make us feel is natural, our birthright as young, savvy, individualistic consumers even. But nonetheless, entitlement. It may be that as the net evolves and “business models” change everyone will be able to get what they want, and surprises too! But in the transition phase that won’t be the case: it isn’t right now.

The Blind Men And The Twitterphant (Blackbeard Blog)

The third blind man was an entertainment reporter, and he felt the Twitterphant’s beautiful tusk. “The finest ivory!” he breathed in wonder, “This beast must be the chosen steed of celebrities, and if I follow it I will know their ways better.”

“Ghost Town” (Popular)

In the astonishing video these hellbound howls soundtrack a car crammed with Specials swerving and banking chaotically through a deserted, apocalyptic London. The car isn’t out of control, its driver spins the wheel with determined abandon, its lunatic progress catching the sense of awful, mocking liberation in those vocals.

Online Communities: Fight The Real Enemy! (Blackbeard Blog)

Depending on how your community works your bores might include verbose bores, bores who trot out received wisdom, “me too” bores, “First!” bores, bores who flog in-jokes to death, list bores, bores who ask obvious questions, and many many more.

“Total Eclipse Of The Heart” (Popular)

“Total Eclipse Of The Heart” may replace emotion with scale, but at the top end scale is its own emotion. That being “OMG”, and this record’s gasping, OMG, needles-in-the-red moment is when Bonnie shreds herself to pieces on “We’re living in a powder keg and GIVING OFF SPARKS!” before that toweringly preposterous arpeggio and her spent, release-filled “I REALLY NEED YOU TONIGHT!”. And then the planet she’s standing on explodes, or something.

Court And Spark (Cluetrain Plus 10)

What’s happening isn’t as simple as business learning to be informal. At the same time as the idea of engagement, of re-establishing personal connections, filters through to business, so the would-be inheritors of business – the self-described mavens and connectors who throng the salons of web 2.0 – themselves adopt some of its airs and graces.

Research As A Social Object (Talk at ARF)

Thanks to TheSpark and hundreds of other sites people now have certain expectations of surveys and survey data. They are used to being able to see the results and share them, at the very least. We as an industry came late to this party, still believing that our USP was that we gave consumers a voice. But they already had a voice, and interactivity is becoming a hygiene factor, not a selling point. If what makes us different as an experience is that we restrict participants, not empower them, that’s not a wonderful position for research to be in.

“Stand And Deliver” (Popular)

“The thing that strikes me about it now is how fast it is: at a rough estimate it’s topping 140 bpm and it feels like a steeplechase, punctuated by those stick-clashing breaks and accompanied by war whoops. These cries and hollers added needed and marvellous colour to Ant tracks – the man wasn’t a great melodist or harmonist – and also reinforced the impression that being an Ant was a wonderful job, a life of brigandage and comradeship.”